What if you were given the opportunity to perform alongside punk legends The Damned, Orange Goblin, and Ruts/Ruts DC? How RAD would that be?! Well, these are just a few of the bands headlining the 2017 Camden Rocks Festival on June 3, 2017. Camden Rocks Festival sees over 8,000 live music lovers along with agents, managers, A&R, and publicists take over Camden Town for the most rock n’ roll one day-er of the year. With over 250 bands throughout 25 venues, Camden Rocks gives up-and-coming bands the chance to be heard – it’s manic and intimate all at once. We got with festival organizer Chris McCormack – formerly the driving force behind Creation Records ‘Britrock’ quartet 3 Colours Red and promoter behind Camden’s finest gig and club nights – to get an inside look at what goes down day of the festival, what he looks for when booking bands, and why Camden Town has long been the hub of the UK’s rock ‘n’ roll scene.
Hi, Chris! We’re thrilled to be the official submission platform for Camden Rocks Festival! When did Camden Rocks Festival start and what is the overall mission?
We started in 2009 with 35 bands and 5 venues, there were people climbing buildings and jumping through bathroom windows to get to see Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. It was a great way to start the whole thing and and it’s gone from strength to strength from there.
What makes Camden Rocks unique from the rest and how does it help emerging artists?
It’s a crazy amount of bands and stages and it’s all catered around the best new bands in the country fighting for their place. It has to be one of the best showcases for unsigned bands as I invite all the industry along. Agents, managers, A&R, publishers and press …it’s a feeding frenzy and a great opportunity for all parties. Loads of bands have found management or got a deal from playing. I put on hundreds of shows a year looking for the best new bands and add those to the festival so I love hearing stories of bands moving to the next stage of their careers from playing the festival.
Can you give us a breakdown of what exactly goes down the day of the festival?
25 venues and over 250 bands … Camden has so many cool venues and bars that we turn into stages, you can literally walk out of one show and straight into another. It’s not just about watching the bands you’ve come to see but about discovering your new favorites too. There’s so much talent in one day so I always advise people to get there early and see as many bands as they can, even if it’s just a few songs of each band.
Camden Town has long been the hub of the UK’s rock ‘n’ roll scene. What are some of the greatest talents you’ve seen come out of there?
When I moved to Camden in 1995 every band lived or wanted to live here. It’s where all the A&R hung out and where most bands were signed, but more important than any one band, it was the backdrop and helped create scenes like Brit Pop & Punk Rock. The Clash used to rehearse at Rehearsals Rehearsals in the market and Dingwalls was a big hang out at the time.
Recently, it’s become very expensive to live here, which means the young people move further out where their rent is more affordable and travel in. They move to places like Shoreditch and then that becomes too expensive so they move further out again and that becomes the cool new place to hangout.
How has the music scene evolved over the last few years in Camden?
It’s the same elements at its roots overall, but the one thing that’s changed is that awful noise they call grime… that seems to be popular. Club NME at KOKO has been replaced with a night of Grime DJ’s … I don’t get it at all but I remember my parents telling me Punk Rock was shite so I’m probably out of touch and getting old!
Besides artists, managers, and agents approaching you, how do you decide on the acts you book for the festival lineup? What are some of the key factors you look for?
I look for a band’s potential, not always how well their demo was recorded or what I’m being fed via email. I’ve been a musician / songwriter / producer all my life and I mange artists so I can hear though all the bullshit fairly quickly. I also get to see most of the up-and-coming bands I put on through all my Camden Rocks Presents shows I do throughout the year leading into the festival. It’s very obvious most of the time … it’s about how serious a band takes it and the effort they put into promoting themselves. You’d be surprised at how many bands don’t have a clue and wonder why they’re not moving forward.
What do you feel that you’ve learned over the past few years that has made the festival a success?
Not to get too stressed. The first couple of years I micro managed everything and I used to get twitches. I’ve learned that it’ll all happen and it’ll all work out in the end.
Finally, what are you most excited about for this upcoming festival?
I’ve only announced 35 bands from 270 so we’re just getting started but The Damned were one of the first bands I saw live when I was 11 years old, I was a huge Punk fan as I was growing up and still am, so getting them to play was a real thrill. I saw them more than anyone else as a kid. That’ll be special… it’s all special but I’m also extremely happy when it’s all over 🙂